Culture Rover

#111 - A Day Late and a Dollar Short

A Mini-festo On Untimely Record Reviews

Lately, Culture Rover wonders about the obsession with release dates in the music press. If a record is even a few weeks old, sometimes editors refure to run reviews.

There is certainly something exciting and super-pop about staying au courant with music, but maybe there should be a bigger place in the press for music to stew, ripen, float around awhile in this corner and that, before its time has past. Right now, it's either brand new or rediscovered, either this week's hit parade or any of the following: that lost psychedelic one-off from 1969, this old hippie songwriter rebranded as a freak-folk ancestor, that long-lost blues recording, this no-wave racket claimed as avant-garde, that dance track from 1988 rediscovered, this old-school hip-hop artist suddenly given props.

You're either fresh fizzing pop or a classic, either shrink-wrapped new or dusty-salvaged old. You're either unknown or history. But what about the middle ground, the place where music hangs around for awhile, lost on the dial of the Ipod, popping up a few times here and there on shuffle, heard by accident on some podcast, stumbled upon on the vast seas of Myspace, amassing meaning and understanding with multiple listenings, not making sense at first, then taking center stage. Music of the second wind.

What if record reviews opened up their criteria to include different kinds of relevance: not just the brand new but also the slightly older, not just this week's marketing campaign by the record companies, but also that album that's been slowly building steam, not just significant as dollar signs in the eyes of the producers of the music, but also as meaningful noise in the ears of the listeners.

The record review not as consumer guide, but as conversation, as the circulating sounds that move among individuals, stitching them together with electricity. Reviews that are a day late and a dollar short, precisely.

4 October 2006

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